Victory for justice after woman is denied bereavement damages for not being married

Jakki Smith in her interview with the BBC

Last year Jakki Smith (pictured) took the government to court after they denied her bereavement damages when her partner of 16 years, John Bulloch, died.

Mr. Bulloch died in 2011 after an infection that was missed by doctors spread to his brain.

A fixed sum of £12,980 is normally paid out to spouses or civil partners if a person dies as a result of medical negligence.

As she was neither, the High Court dismissed her entitlement to bereavement damages.

The Court of Appeal, however, allowed Ms. Smith to challenge the decision.

“You weren’t married, you weren’t bereaved, it didn’t count”

Her legal team argued the current legislation was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They stated: “It is absolutely devastating (to suffer a loss of a partner), yet for unmarried couples there is still no recognition of that loss in the eyes of the law.”

Ms. Smith said: “It felt unfair to me because I couldn’t have the bereavement damages. I felt they were saying: ‘You weren’t married, you weren’t bereaved, it didn’t count.’

John and I had planned a life together, we were in it for the long run and the fact our bond wasn’t recognised, simply because we hadn’t chosen to marry, was very upsetting.”

In today’s society where people no longer see marriage as a necessity, or as important as it used to be, the laws have not adapted and adjusted to such views and changes of lifestyle.

The Law Commission previously recommended including cohabiting couples as changes to this law but it never progressed.

Justice & principle

Ms. Smith eventually won her legal battle on a momentous day.

Ms. Smith did not get any money from the decision as there is no possibility of retrospective payment, but she made it clear it was never about the money.

“It was never about the money… it was about the principle.

“I just hope what has happened helps other people who may find themselves in this tragic situation.”

She and many others are hoping the results from this case will spur the government into considering changes to the current legislation.